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German embassy staff in Bangkok are rude and impudent, it is alleged

Thai Orchid Expert, Phuket Journalist Cancel Trips to Europe Over 'Rude' Embassy Staff

Sunday, March 22, 2015
PHUKET: Rude workers at the German embassy in Bangkok have been blamed for an eminent Thai orchid expert and a Phuketwan journalist abandoning their applications for visas to Europe.

Thailand's foremost orchid specialist, Professor Rapee Sagarik wanted to travel to give the opening speech at the European Orchid Show and Conference at Kew Gardens in London then to visit Germany to collect a Royal Violin on behalf of HM The King.

But he found himself being asked insulting questions this week by staff at the German embassy, among them: ''You are old. [the professor is 93] Why do you have to go overseas? Do you have any insurance?''

A former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and a Thai Agriculture Sage, Professor Rapee's trip was being sponsored by Lips Publishing which planned a magazine article on his visit to the orchid show and to Frankfurt to pick up the specially-made Royal Violin.

In the end, continued intrusive and rude questioning forced the professor to simply walk out of the embassy, foregoing his trip to Europe.

Thai-language media reported Professor Rapee's bad experience widely and noted that he had encouraged the growing of orchids in Germany, and even visited Dresden at the invitation of the German government last year.

The professor's experience this week mirrored that of Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian earlier in the month.

She applied on February 19 for a visa through the ''excellent and very efficient'' German honorary consul's office on Phuket.

She was later told by the embassy that she could have her passport with visa collected in Bangkok on February 27. Three times a friend who was to collect the passport was given misleading information and spent hours waiting needlessly in queues.

Meanwhile, Khun Chutima, who had booked her trip and hoped to fly on March 1, was peppered with inappropriate questions over the telephone about what was an annual break from work.

Khun Chutima, who usually visits Europe once a year, also hoped to raise the plight of the stateless Rohingya - and a precedent-setting criminal defamation case involving the Royal Thai Navy - with journalists there.

After more insulting questions, her visa was eventually granted - beginning March 3.

Khun Chutima, like Professor Rapee, decided that the attitude of the embassy staff was not worth the trouble and sacrificed the fee of more than 4000 baht, opting instead to stay on Phuket.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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There is probably a law in Germany that sick people of any nationality in the country have to be treated medically if they get sick, therefore if the person get sick the taxpayer pays and the person can leave the hospital. Unlike in many cases in Thailand where the taxpayer does not pay for foreigners they are not allowed to leave the hospital without paying the bill that is why they ask a 93 year old who probably could not get medical insurance. Seems a reasonable question to me? If you were a tax payer in Germany what would you think?

Posted by Welcome to the world on March 22, 2015 18:40

Editor Comment:

All Thais who travel to Europe are obliged to take out travel insurance. It's a widely understood part of the process, especially for experienced travellers. Foreigners in Thailand cannot be held in hospital if bills are unpaid.

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It's a shame but normally Europe is very welcoming and you are given a better treatment than a foreigner in Thailand wanting to renew his visa or whatever

Posted by Khun Philippe on March 22, 2015 19:14

Editor Comment:

Not at the German embassy.

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These experiences mirror also that of the migrants in Thailand who, like me, in order to renew their visa must answer every year at the immigration office insulting, intrusive and disrespectful questions ( religion, personal and professional life etc ), and even submit photographs of the family in the home. Not mentioning problems by the staff for understanding the rules that they are meant to apply.

Posted by Anonymous on March 22, 2015 19:36

Editor Comment:

The comparable experience is with tourists to Thailand, anonymous, not with expat residents. You are comparing apples with oranges.

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So now they know how as a foreigner get treated when you're dealing with Thai authorities. Maybe they'll learn something from it?!?!

Posted by Nicky on March 22, 2015 21:56

Editor Comment:

What a crass and ignorant statement. You bring shame on all foreigners saying that.

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I find it interesting that when a Thai citizen has an issue. it makes the headlines. Yet there are however many stories of Foreigners who echo the same experience of immigration in Thailand, which seems to resemble the same treatment as the embassy staff, and yet nobody blinks an eye lid.

Posted by reader on March 22, 2015 22:49

Editor Comment:

More bigotry, reader. Use your real name, tell us your saga of ''hardship'' and see whether it gets published. You selfish people are pathetic.

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Problem is that in Europe they think that every thai who wants to travel wants to stay in the cold and the rain,but honestly the German embassy is not the best choice for a schengen visa,have a friend in Phuket married with his thai partner,and it is still a lot of stupid questions to get a visa aalthough she came several times to Europe,allway got back to Thailand and has a very decent income in Thailand,but Thailand is even more difficult and they are right to do so,there is too much human garbage coming to Thailand.

Posted by Khun Philippe on March 22, 2015 23:01

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Oh dear, Mr Ed is banging a drum again - Germans bad - Thais good. The treatment I got at Immigration in Phuket town last week was disgraceful but for me to comment on it is apparently 'bigoted! The officer in charge of re-entry permits and certificates of residence took great delight in not processing anyone for over 45 minutes, even though he knew we were waiting. Apples and Oranges indeed!

Posted by Mister Ree on March 23, 2015 02:17

Editor Comment:

The staff at the German embassy who deal with visas are all Thais, MR. The issue in this article is about temporary visas but you will twist it as it suits you to your own self-interest as usual. Problems encountered with delays at Phuket Immigration are experienced by us all. Your attempt to turn this issue into one involving nationality proves your bigotry.

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(moderated)

Posted by Scunner on March 23, 2015 02:22

Editor Comment:

Of late, Scunner, you've been writing quite frequently. About two in every 30 are published. From now on, I don't intend to even bother reading what you write.

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Quote "saga of hardship"

From a foreigner's perspective to live in Thailand is a constant 'toil' and 'discomfort' to have to submit rather irrelevant mounds of paperwork, when the authorities already know most of the information, since it's held on computer either from a previous application or at the time of arrrival.

For example; reporting every 90 days for no reason whatsoever, and to provide countless pages of initimate information which seems to change every time, and to be spoken to like some ignoramious, some irrelevant peice of rubbish, and to only be seen as a walking ATM machine, as if you jusat arrived on the banana boat could be the reason why many expats are leaving.

Perhaps you should do your homework on this issue, and print a special article on the way foreigners are treated and perceived in Thailand will indeed shock you. I'm sure many readers here will tell you stories of their own experiences of the system, and especially immigration.

The most rude thing I find is the term 'farang', which whilst it is the definition of a western foreigner, it is frequently used in the context of somebody who doesn't belong, an outsider, a non-Thai. Many Thais address 'farang' by their race other than the name of the person, or a person. I find this term very offensive, rude and racist.

Quote "You selfish people are pathetic" ... and this isn't bigotry?

Before making such sarcastic remarks, consider both sides of the fence please.

Posted by reader on March 23, 2015 02:52

Editor Comment:

The word is ignoramus, reader.
I am certainly biased against selfish people. And no, that's not bigotry.
As I've said - and it's actually plain to most people - this article is about Thais seeking temporary visas to Europe through the German embassy. It has nothing to do with your problems.
The enduring crisis with increased paperwork and the crush at Immigration on Phuket has been widely reported.
We've even made the point recently that life is far worse in Chiang Mai, where a senior Immigration officer told a visitor: ''Welcome to Hell.''
Your best option is to raise the matter with your own embassy. If enough people did that, the ambassadors as a group would put pressure on the government to improve the situation. It could even be raised at the next meeting the governor has with the island's honorary consuls.

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Seems par for the course for how non-Thais are treated by Thai officialdom as well...so what's good for the goose is good for the gander I say.

As for the violin, just have it sent FedEx!

Posted by Jonnie on March 23, 2015 07:04

Editor Comment:

What you're saying is that neither problem deserves fixing. That's the who-cares approach that leaves you a no-hoper.

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Agree with Nicky.Trying to renew any type of visa here now.You are made to feel as if you are doing something wrong.

Posted by rich on March 23, 2015 07:17

Editor Comment:

The regulations have tightened to obliterate the scamming.

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If I'm not mistaken, K. Chutima and PW also took exception to how the US Embassy treated her during the visa application.

I was not there so I don't know how valid these accusations are but for me it starts to look like there's a pattern here.

Somewhat unrelated - of all the Thai Embassies or Consulates I've visited during the past decade I can say that the staff at the Thai Embassy in Berlin is by far the most arrogant and downright rude. They are Thai nationals, not German.

Posted by Herbert on March 23, 2015 07:53

Editor Comment:

''I was not there so I don't know how valid these accusations are.''

You've got something right for once, Herbert. Best not to be an expert on matters you know nothing about . . . uh oh. Too late.

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"The regulations have tightened to obliterate the scamming"

ha ha ha.. Paid for a 'free' letter of residence lately ?? Or been asked for money for a compulsory 90 day report ?? Or the on purpose slow lanes in the airport to make the VIP bribe more compelling.

Obliterate scamming.. Dont make us laugh.

Posted by LivinLOS on March 23, 2015 08:10

Editor Comment:

If you pay, you're corrupt. Ha, ha.

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I think what needs to be focused on here is that Thai people need visa's for the majority of the countries around the world. Staff at local embassies are known to be quiet abrasive with visa applicants.

In the Professors case the questioning was rude but i have found in Thailand people generally say what they think without thinking about the impact of the question they are asking. The issue of the questioning of whether he carried insurance is correct. Insurance is required for a Schengen Visa. Its compulsory.

As for Khun Chuntima - I think if they say the visa is ready for pickup then the process is over. Sounds odd. Why are they suddenly re-questioning her? There will be no answers to this as the German embassy like so many do not comment on individual cases.

Posted by Ciaran on March 23, 2015 09:34

Editor Comment:

The staff appears to need a course in when questions are intrusive and rude. Security is not threatened by orchid experts and journalists taking holidays.

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There's no excuse for rudeness. I've got to say the British Embassy in BKK have been fantastic (in terms of politeness) in processing numerous visa applications for my girlfriend over the last decade.

Sounds like an attitude adjustment is needed. Perhaps the Government can call in said Thai staff at the embassy for one of their 'adjustment courses' ;-)

Posted by Duncan on March 23, 2015 09:41

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I see him, old men with merits, an expert, a special person in Thailand someone who deserves special respect.

But they treated him like any other. Travel Insurance ok, but someone dares to ask about health insurance but he feels hurt and insuted.

He should not travel to foreign countries, when he is overwhelmed with the preparations.

Posted by Georg The Viking on March 23, 2015 10:09

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I have been living here for 12 years, always been completely legal, never scammed anyone and I am still made to feel like a criminal the way most of the immigration rabble treat you here.

Posted by rich on March 23, 2015 11:50

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Maybe the editor could join the staff from the Thai embassy for that course.

Posted by Nicky on March 23, 2015 11:56

Editor Comment:

Thai embassies are all overseas, Nicky. Am I travelling at your expense?

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Being a german national whou lived in Germany for many, many years, I know very vell the "What do you want, you're only disturbing us" attitude of government employees. Now living and working in Bangkok for almost eight years, I've never ever faced any "hardship" in regards to my visa or my workpermit. Given that one fulfills the requirements in the first place.

Telling a 93 year old professor, that he's old is plain impertinence. The only job a an embassy's employee is to tell the applicant the legal requirements. This can be done in a friendly and cooperative way.

And to all the commenters claiming to face and "hardship" and whatever when applying for a visa renewal: If this is really the case, why do keep renewing it in the first place?

Posted by Dieter Bunkerd on March 23, 2015 12:15

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Question: Were the people asking the questions at the German embassy Thais or German consular officials? I ask, because my friend went to the Canadian embassy and was treated rudely by the Thai nationals employed at the Canadian embassy. In this particular case of the 93 year old, was he ambulatory and able to demonstrate by his appearance, good health? All western countries have a concern when granting visas that they are not assuming the expensive medical costs of the visitor. It is not as if Thailand would medevac the professor if he became ill, is it? One cannot be too hard on the Germans for asking health related questions. As an aside, at 93 he would most likely be asked to provide a health certificate before being allowed to fly as airlines have the prerogative of asking such questions of the elderly, pregnant, and physically impaired.

Posted by Ryan on March 23, 2015 12:23

Editor Comment:

As a regular traveller to Europe, he like all Thais would be required to take out insurance. That's not the issue. Thai staff ask the questions.

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Wow...does anyone see the irony here? With all the German tourist, German Expats and German spouses of Thai women who live in and/or visit Thailand on a yearly basis, I find this situation comic in the least and tragically ironic at best.

Posted by Donald Jackson on March 23, 2015 12:47

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Ed, your reply does not answer the question, if a 93 year old has a serious medical issue whilst in a country with a developed health system, UK, Germany, France, Australia, etc should the tax payer pay and they get on a flight and leave the country. Some operations are over USD100,000 yes not Baht USD100,000 would you as a taxpayer in one of these countries want to pay for this. Get real! I think compulsory medical insurance should be required and proof of such, sadly at that age it is unlikely to be obtainable. I see you attack virtually all the comments. Look at yourself also.

Posted by Welcome to the world on March 23, 2015 13:58

Editor Comment:

All Thai travellers to Europe must have travel insurance.You may be ageist. The system is not discriminatory.

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Talking about Visas Thailand is the only country I know of that even if you marry a Thai and have children you are not granted at least Permanent Residence or Citizenship. This in my opinion goes against in some cases the welfare of children, for example if the foreigner runs our of money and cannot qualify for a Visa he/she has to leave the country and maybe families are split up as a result. One of the most vulnerable sections of any society and indeed the future of that society are it's children and in my opinion if you marry a Thai and have a child Permanent Residence at least should be granted.

Posted by Welcome to the world on March 23, 2015 15:42

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Airlines are required, by law, to ask for a Fit to Fly certificate issued by a physician to be presented when there's reason to believe the person may have health issues that can be aggravated by the flight, is over 28 weeks pregnant or is of advanced age.

As a 93y old person and a frequent traveler, as can be deducted from the report, surely the professor is used to this practice.

A simple example is when you wish to fly with a cast, i.e. broken leg. Especially on long haul flights it can cause circulatory problems during the flight and thus a Fit to Fly certificate will be required before the airline will allow you to board.

This has nothing to do with discrimination but rather the concern for the health of the passenger and the possible disruption to normal flight operations.

Women 36 weeks pregnant or more are not allowed to fly at all. Is that discriminatory too ?

Travel insurance has no relevance with this issue.

None of us were present during the interview of the professor but if he was upset because of the reference to his respectable age and possible health concerns, as the story appears to imply, then I do feel his reaction was somewhat misguided.

Posted by Herbert on March 23, 2015 16:08

Editor Comment:

I am not sure why an article about rudeness at the German embassy provokes you to such elaborate guesswork, Herbert. Perhaps you've been in touch with the professor or his doctor in the meantime. If not, How Would You Know? Your opinion is as valuable as your expertise, although you probably should consult a specialist for surgery to repair both.

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Whats happened to Sue?
Surely there is a long post being produced about its experiences with obtaining visas for entry to every country?

Posted by Manowar on March 23, 2015 16:28

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Does the German embassy charge a "service fee"? One which is not advertised ..... I wonder about that.

Posted by geoff on March 23, 2015 22:36

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Why didn't he just get a health certificate from a clinic. The test is easy to pass and consists of writing your own name on a paper.

Posted by Doktit on March 24, 2015 03:19

Editor Comment:

The professor's health is not the issue. He's exceptionally sprightly.

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Sprightly...love that word! Reminds me of Sprightly Sue. Maybe she's getting a visa to go to Germany @ this very moment. Nice.....

Posted by Anonymous on March 24, 2015 14:01

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Was not there, so unable to comment on the staff's tone of voice and demeanor, but I think the questions were completely reasonable considering that the professor himself did admit to not have brought with him all the necessary documents required - a fact confirmed by his assistant, (his reasoning is that "the doctor was not there when he visited the hospital...")

Moreover the whole "are you Thai? I have done so much for the country" he later uttered to the staff was probably not really helping.

Posted by J on March 24, 2015 19:41

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as a german, and someone who not takes every word serious and seems calm down, i have to say:

why he not simply answered the questions?

he could say:
"yes, i have an insurance. thanks for your concerns, but iam healthy and ready to travel. i have references and contacts in europe and will travel for my work on xyz"

i not see the rudeness in asking someone if he has an insurance and is able to travel in his age.

you know, my grandparents tried to travel with me to thailand too. i asked them the same questions....you just have to be realistic. you are old, you normally are more weak.
its a long flight, and you need an insurance for staying, wherever you are in asia or europe. common sense.


i interpret his statement about this minor issue as a sulky statement. he seems disappointed that he not get a better treatement. i mean, he is famous....orchids and so on. and he was in Dresden, uh oooh :)


did he contacted an thai newspaper in first place? if so, this tells much about his character ;)

such a minor issue. i feel really sad for him :/ he should be wise enough.

Posted by funnyianer on March 25, 2015 02:07

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As the editor already mentioned, the staff at the German embassy are mostly THAI. My wife also made very bad experience with the THAI staff at the German embassy. For example last time when we were applying for a visitor visa, my wife got an appointment at 8:30 am. She tried to change to a later hour and explained to the staff that she would be coming from outside Bangkok and that no bus or van would be available to get her to the embassy at 08:30 am. The staff ignored it and told her it would be her problem and she could also spent a night at a hotel to make sure she would be on time the next day. My wife opted to take the car and left home at 4 am. Once arrived in Bangkok she switched from car to public transport to avoid the traffic jam. However, she was still late by 10 minutes and arrived at the embassy at 8:40 am. The staff didn't let her in anymore and told her to make a new appointment. The embassy was rather empty at that time and it would not have created any disturbance to the schedule, if the staff would let her do her application interview. But they rejected, even after my wife told them the reason for being late. They were looking down on her with an attitude ... My wife told me, she was made to feel that the people at the embassy are worth more, just because they got themselves a job at the German embassy, This was not the first time that we got treated in this way. I could also tell you about the registration of our marriage at the embassy ... I only say: They treated my wife as she would be a hooker (which she is not ... she is working as a senior operations manager at an international forwarding company). And again: The people who treated her/us rudely are THAIS!

Posted by Anonymous on March 25, 2015 08:47

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Anonymous & Kurt,
It's not only the German embassy as the Australian embassy provided me with a similar experience.
In the end I had to tell the " lady" to mind her own business, keep her opinions to herself and just do the job we are paying her to do and process the application.
Yes, local embassy staff do appear to consider themselves superior to other Thais.

Posted by Manowar on March 25, 2015 14:18

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local embassy staff do appear to consider themselves superior to other Thais.
(by Manowar)

===

it's very standard positioning of Thai officials, that stems from feudalism in earlier times, and " feudalism in transit" now. This can explain why there is a popular support for red colour that is opposed to yellow, where part of the movement is old generational bureaucrats.

you will not find anything like this in W. or N. Europe, however officialdom still not perfect there too.

Posted by Sue on March 25, 2015 16:51

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So any foreigner complaining is a bigot. That makes you a bigot. You should at least investigate the claims of you are a real journalist. Opps, forgot. You're Thai so everything you do is halfassed.

Posted by Foreigner in Thailand on March 28, 2015 10:57

Editor Comment:

People who start posts with the word ''So'' inevitably try to force words and sentiments down the throats of others, FiT. We just don't respond to comments and challenges from people who have no grasp of the real world. If you are addressing the editor, that's something else you know nothing about. Why put so much effort into proving you're a fool?


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